It isn’t that often that Joey Rocha gets to take the ball to the mound for Mountain Pointe’s baseball team.
So, when the senior left-hander got the call to start against Casa Grande at home earlier this week he made the most of it.
Rocha, who normally starts in the outfield for the Pride, threw a no-hitter over five innings as Mountain Pointe beat the Cougars, 10-0, in a game shortened by the 10-run mercy rule.
The Pride have had some pretty good arms over the past two seasons, so Rocha hasn’t had a lot of chances to start on the mound.
“I like pitching best,” Rocha said, “but I haven’t had a lot of opportunities.”
Southpaws are rare in high school baseball, where most pitchers are right-handers, so Rocha often has an advantage, at least the first time through the opposition’s batting order.
“Most batters aren’t used to seeing left-handers, and the ball tails off on them a bit,” Rocha said.
He had command of his fastball against Casa Grande and wasn’t getting many signs from Pride pitching coach Kevin Dryanski.
“He was hitting his spots,” Dryanski said. “His fastball was working, and all I did was make some suggestions.”
As he got deeper into the game Rocha knew he had a no-hitter going and with the Pride holding a 10-run lead in the bottom of the third inning he realized he may have to go only five innings.
“I wasn’t nervous at all,” Rocha said. “I had a couple of no-hitters in Little League, but that was different. I never had one in high school. I knew my defense was playing well behind me.”
So was the offense.
The Pride ripped 10 hits over those five innings.
Mountain Pointe coach Brandon Buck has used Rocha mainly in relief over the past two seasons, but he has also had some starts like he did against Casa Grande.
“I like starting,” Rocha said. “You get to focus more in the bullpen before the game and see what’s working, but mostly I’ve been a reliever. As long as I get a chance to pitch, that’s fine with me, too.”
Rocha credits Dryanski with making more than suggestions during the season.
“He’s helped me a lot over the last couple of years with my mechanics,” Rocha said.
Rocha has been around the game since his T-ball days in California. His family moved to Ahwatukee Foothills when he was in seventh grade, and he played on club teams like the Ahwatukee Dodgers.
He has been on the Pride varsity since the end of his sophomore season.
When Rocha isn’t on the mound, he’s been in the outfield for the Pride. That’s when his bat is as valuable as his arm.
He played in all but one game for the Pride last season and had a .372 batting average while driving in 22 runs. He also had a 2.90 Earned Run Average, second best on the team, over 19 innings last year.
“A lot of times when you’re pitching well or playing well defensively, it carries over to hitting,” Rocha said. “But I had a game this year when I was 3-for-3 at bat and didn’t pitch well at all. Those are the days when you can make up for off days at the plate.”
This time he did it on the mound.